Interview | Made in Heaven directors on story, idea & making of Amazon Prime web series

Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Niya Mehra and Alankrita Shrivastava speak to thestatesman.com about Made in Heaven, the preparation went into it and their expectations from it

Interview | Made in Heaven directors on story, idea & making of Amazon Prime web series

Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Niya Mehra and Alankrita Shrivastava at the screening of Made in Heaven om Mumbai.

After Four More Shots Please, another Amazon Prime Original web series is all set to hit the screens. The Made in Heaven trailer has been out for some time now and has created quite a buzz. The web series, created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, chronicles the lives of two wedding planners, played by Sobhita Dhulipala and Arjun Mathur, and the great Indian wedding business.

The writer-director team of Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti has collaborated with Niya Mehra, Alankrita Shrivastava and Prashant Nair for the upcoming web series. Made in Heaven also stars Jim Sarbh, Shashank Arora, Kalki Koechlin, Vijay Raaz, Shweta Tripathi, Pulkit Samrat, Amrita Puri and Manjot Singh in key roles.

The show is set to release on 8 March on Amazon Prime Video. Ahead of its release, the four women directors, Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Niya Mehra and Alankrita Shrivastava, were in Delhi to promote their show. Speaking to thestatesman.com, they talked about the show, preparation went into it and their expectations from it. Excerpts:


Most of you are writer-directors. Does writing come very organically to you or do you like sit at a desk with an idea and chase it till you have something?

Reema Kagti: I mean writing comes organically, but you still have to sit at a desk and chase… Unfortunately one doesn’t ensure the next.

Zoya Akhtar: Like you will get a “I want to shoot in Spain or I want to make a road film”. You know I want to explore this place of weddings, behind the scenes of weddings. Because, I have friends in the business and they tell you crazy stories but that’s’ like that’s the inspiration. Then you get excited, then you have to actually sit at the desk and crack the story.

Nitya Mehra: Ideas come a lot of the time but to make it into a reality, you really have to (at least me), I have to, literally believe that I have a day job and work at it to see if that idea can be a story.

Zoya Akhtar: Yes, you have to be extremely disciplined.

Alankrita Shrivastava: Until, you actually put a pen, or say a finger to…… It’s not going to happen. You have to put in the hours of actually doing it. Also, like writing is a lot of re-writing. So you write, then you look at it again, you discuss it then rewrite.

Reema Kagti: And, also layering. You may not necessarily be rewriting but adding things. You know, because you put your main story down, but then there’s certain layers; certain subtext that you want to put in, that comes with layers.

Zoya Akhtar: And, you can’t be lazy. If something doesn’t work change it. If it means re-haul, re-haul.

Reema Kagti: If you’re not convinced no one else is going to get convinced.

So, whose idea was Made in Heaven?

Reema Kagti: Zoya and I came up with it; the first germ of the idea came from Zoya talking to a friend of hers who works in the business.

Zoya Akhtar: Yeah, and just the world is beautiful. You know, it’s like behind the scenes of a circus, or a theatre, or the film industry; or it’s just behind the scenes of something grand and magical.

Nitya Mehra: Also, these two had come to Delhi; two of our friends were getting married back to back. And, they stayed here for two and half- three weeks.

Zoya Akhtar: In Nitya’s home for three weeks.

Nitya Mehra: And, I think it’s the first time where we were not working. We were actually waking up and getting ready attending weddings.

Zoya Akhtar: Twice a day.

Alankrita Shrivastava: And, I think that was great fodder for these two.

When there are so many around you who, defining your success, say that you should write in a particular way or talk about certain specific subject; or that you have to live up to a legacy. How do you handle that pressure? How do you keep it original?

Reema Kagti: Nobody should define you but yourself. I do not allow anyone else to define me but myself.

Zoya Akhtar: Some people – it’s laughable. Some people, their commentary can irritate you but you should allow that irritation to last two minutes. And, some people can give you very good advice and help you by teaching you what they have learnt before you. So, it depends on who is talking to you, it depends on what the intent is, it depends on what the agenda is and you should react to it accordingly.

Nitya Mehra: It is important to have this filter system whereby, Logon ka kaam hai kehna. So, you are going to get a lot… You are your best competition, you have got to beat yourself.

Alankrita Shrivastava: I think the most important thing is to be in touch with your own voice, you own instinct. Like the connection with your own inner self, is the best guiding light for what you want to do.

Zoya Akhtar: Also, if anybody is any kind of artist, you want to be unique, you want to be special. You want to be somebody that’s not an imitation of someone else. And, to do that you can’t be listening to other people telling you what to do. That you have to only go inside and come out. So you have to be honest and authentic with yourself because you are not going to create anything honest otherwise.

Alankrita: That uniqueness will come from that only.

Zoya Akhtar: From the fact that you are different from any one.

Zoya, it took you seven years to make your first film. So, what happened in the interim. Did you think about changing the script or were you like questioning yourself?

Zoya Akhtar: The script, I didn’t want to change. But I kept the script aside and wrote another script. I did do that. I did different jobs. I cast, I AD’d, I was an executive producer. So I just kept myself afloat because honestly, I didn’t have a backup plan. I didn’t have any other option. I mean I couldn’t even cook at that point. I didn’t have any other option.

Made in Heaven is an ensemble show. So, you have an idea in your head when you go to the set. And, then when you’re working with such a large team, all of them bring their own dynamics to it. People are always contributing to what you have in your head and it changes when you’re there because of the setup, and the people. So, how attached are you to your text?

Reema Kagti: You have to be very clear about what you want to say. So, you take in the things that compliment it, and you throw out the things…

Zoya Akhtar: You take in the ideas that enhance your vision, you cannot take in ideas that blur the vision. So, if you’re clear about what you want to say, you are clear about what the mood of the scene is, whose scene it is, what feeling you want to evoke. When you are clear about those things, your instinct is correct then. You know, so the filter remains. You take whatever makes that happen and you’ll reject what doesn’t make that happen. Having said that, we have all worked with ensembles in our films. The trick is to be able to iron out; see, actors are not props, good actors come in with a process, they come in with ideas, and they co-create characters with you. So, you want to do that before you get to set. You want to do the workshops, you want to do the readings, you want to iron out all the script questions. So, when you get to set, you are prepared and then you can play. Everyone is on the same page.

Nitya Mehra: You know what’s really interesting. A set is really like a playground. But, as a director what’s interesting is that you curate that playground, So, you want to enable people to play, but you just have made sure that all the things she (Zoya Akhtar) spoke about are there. You have curated that, and also given them the freedom, because good actors will bring a lot to the table.

Alankrita Shrivastava: And, I think it is an amazing thing to let everyone believe that you are really letting them express themselves, because everyone feels more comfortable like that. But, I feel, as a director you need to know, you have to draw the lines. But it’s also important to let people feel that they are all contributing…eventually it should serve the vision of what you want to say.